After learning in Parsha Tzav that for seven days, Moshe taught Aaron HaKohen and his sons the laws of their Avodah (the Kohanic Service, i.e. in the Tabernacle and later in the Beit HaMikdash — ” The Temple”) in the Mishkan, our Parsha Shemini begins by relating that on the eighth day, Aaron and his sons commenced their Avodah HaKodosh (Holy Service). It is interesting and ironic that our parsha is the other side of the term; “Tzav-Shemonah” which is the document or order issued by the Israel Defense Forces calling reservists to active duty in event of war. But the alignment of these two Parshiyot, one-after-the-other, seems to this author, to have deeper meaning, above and beyond mobilization and deployment in time of war. This deeper meaning seems to denote a constancy of vigilance, of guard over Am Yisrael and their connection to Hashem, to Torah and to their sanctity (consecration, purity, holiness). And with this constancy of vigilance of Am Yisrael’s sanctity, our Parsha also teaches us about Kashrut, and “abstain[ing] from impure, non-Kosher item[s].” (L’ilmode U’Lamed, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Shemini, page 108)
Our Parsha also relates the tragedy of the deaths of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu who died while performing an unauthorized Service, offering a “strange fire …, which he did not command them…” (Artscroll Chumash, Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 1)
Our Parsha relates that:
“Hashem spoke to Aaron saying: Do not drink intoxicating wine, you and your sons …, when you come to the Ohel Mo’ed (the Tent of Meeting), that you not die — this is an eternal decree for your generations. In order to distinguish between the sacred and the profane …” (Artscroll Chumash, Vayikra, Perek 10, p’sukim 8-10).
In previous years, this author discussed the several aveirot of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu, including their performance of the unauthorized Service, the offering of a “strange fire …”, uncommanded by Hashem. Also discussed in previous years’ Parshat Shemini, was how Nadav and Avihu sought to perform a unique service, thought by them to be pleasing to Hashem, and how many others through our history have sought to alter, to change the traditional modes of service, more often than not, in ways and for reasons not L’Shem Shemayim (not honoring Hashem’s name) and perhaps, eventually rendering whatever service they attempted as unrecognizable in Shemayim, and actually an aveirah (a sin).
In this Parshat HaShevua, this author discusses Moshe’s wisdom in recognizing the Halachic validity of Aaron and his surviving sons, Elazar and Ithamar, in their refrain from eating what would be their portions of the korban Rosh Chodesh due to their status of aveilut (mourning, shiva period) following the deaths of sons/siblings Nadav and Avihu.
The Artscroll Stone Chumash renders Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 12-14, 16-20):
Moshe spoke to Aaron, and to Elazar and Ithamar, his remaining sons, “Take the meal-offering that is left from the fire-offerings of Hashem, and eat it unleavened near the Mizbeiyach [Altar], for it is the most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, for it is your portion and the portion of your sons from the fire-offerings of Hashem, for so I have been commanded. And the breast of the waving and the thigh of the raising-up you shall eat in a pure place, you and your sons and daughters with you….”
Moshe inquired insistently about the he-goat of the sin-offering, for behold, it had been burned! — and he was wrathful with Elazar and Ithamar…, saying “Why did you not eat the sin-offering in a holy place, for it is most holy; and He gave it to you to gain forgiveness for the sin of the assembly and to atone for them before Hashem? …You should have eaten it in the Holy, as I had commanded.”
Aaron spoke to Moshe: “Was it they [Elazar and Ithamar] who this day offered their sin-offering and their elevation-offering before Hashem?
Now that such things befell me — were I to eat this day’s sin-offering, would Hashem approve?” Moshe heard and he approved.
The Artscroll Stone Chumash then renders these Rashi comments on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 19:
…This tragedy has made me an onen [a mourner], and therefore disqualified me from eating the sacrificial meat…
Would it have been proper for even me [Aaron] to eat the Rosh Chodesh offering? Surely Hashem would not have approved!
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 251, re: Parshat Shemini) comments on the preceding dialogue as follows:
When you love wisdom you have joy for the wisdom of others.
Sforno comments…: Moshe felt joy upon hearing the reasoning of Aaron. He had pleasure that Aaron was correct in his decision.
…It is a rare quality to have such a love for wisdom that one derives pleasure when another person comes up with a good idea. What is special about Moshe’s joy was that he himself made an error and Aaron was right. Many people would feel upset that they had made a mistake. But not Moshe Rabbeinu. He was joyful that his brother had an awareness of truth, even though this meant that he [Moshe] was wrong. Moshe’s love of wisdom should serves as our model to strive for.
In following up on R’ Pliskin’s comments and citing of Sforno, this author has often found that one who has err’d tends to try to cover-up his error and/or act disdainfully toward the one who gets it right. When, in a contention for leadership where observant Jews contest, L’chatchila (L’khatkhila — the way things oughta be), there can be zero-tolerance for even a whiff of taint, of fraud. Actions such as a certain phone conversation in 1960 between a certain US presidential candidate and a certain mayor of the 2nd largest US city, i.e. “How many votes d’ya need?”, or videos showing voters attempting to apply for absentee ballots in multiple states in support of a certain 2012 presidential candidate L’chatchila just don’t fly — no excuses, no “everyone does it” in a Jewish election. It would seem that we, who profess to act with closeness to the Almighty are held to a higher calling — V’Ahavta L’rei’echa Komocha [acting with love and honesty] toward our fellow Jews. And those who would perpetrate fraud, taint upon their fellow Jews, no matter what the possible magnitude, need to have the wisdom l’chatchila to own-up to the error of their ways.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.